DRINKING TEA IN KABUL*

Rockets flash briefly
across the chilled sky,
plumes of smoke, ash
carried off
by impending winter.

Over the lintel of the entry
to the Inter-Continental Hotel Chicago,
carved deeply into the marble
Es Salamu Aleikum
staring implacably
through ponderous
brass framed doors
onto the Miracle Mile.
Countless guests
pass below it
unseeing.

My son and I
sit across a small table
spilling bits of tapas
onto the cloth,
laughing lightly
at the young boy
bathed in a puree
of tomato, his shirt
dotted in goat cheese.
My son explains
the inflation of the universe,
gravitational waves
cast off
by coalescing binary
neutron stars.
His words pull me
deeper
into my seat.
We speak somberly
of the jet engine
parked haphazardly
in the Queens gas station
unwilling to mention
265 lives
salted across
the small community.

We embrace
by his door, the few
measured hours run.
He turns to call
his girlfriend,
I turn my collar up
against the November night.

The Red Line train
clatters slowly back
into a sleeping city.
In my room
I brew a cup of Darjeeling.

*”We will drink tea in Kabul tomorrow morning, if God wills it.” – Basir Khan, Northern Alliance Commander, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, 13 November 2001.

First appeared in Hearsay, 2004 and in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).

FIFTEEN MINUTES IN A LIFE

I walked slowly into
the darkened showroom
of the tattoo parlor, walls
lined with the wares
of the burly, bearded man
dragon rampant on his chest
barely contained by the Harley T-shirt.
Look around, he said, till you see
what you want, I’ll be here.
On one wall all manner of dragons
and other dreamlike beasts,
one of mermaids, nymphs
a corner of cycles, one of butterflies.
What I’d like, I said
is a Campbell’s Soup can
Tomato, preferably, or
Chicken Noodle, on my biceps
close to life sized.
He stared, slack jawed, but
you never really know,
it worked for Andy Warhol.

OH, REALLY?

The box said all natural.
That alone was nothing unusual,
but it was on tomatoes.
How, he wondered, could tomatoes
but unnatural, or worse still
partially natural, partially not.
Had they cloned the tomato?
Would cloning make it unnatural,
and if so, how could you tell it
from the original which was natural?
And these weren’t organic.
He began to wonder how tomatoes
could be inorganic.
Wouldn’t they cease to be tomatoes?
It was all too confusing
and he was hungry
but all he had was tomatoes
and those he could no longer trust.